Wednesday, August 27, 2008

More Tory spam

I arrived home last night to find not one, but two MP mailings in my mailbox. Both came from Conservative MPs in other provinces.

I had to laugh when I saw Calgary MP Rob Anders's piece about ending the Wheat Board's monopoly on barley and asking who I think is on the right track for farmers. I live in Winnipeg Centre, which is neither a Tory target nor does it feature very many barley farmers. In fact, if the neighbours are growing any crops at all, I can bet you it isn't barley. Slick targeting, guys.

The other mailing, from Edmonton Tory MP Rahim Jaffer, features typical Tory-style incendiary statements on crime.

Both ten-percenters, as they're known, are outrightly partisan pre-election mailings sent courtesy of Canadian taxpayers (so much for the party of "fiscal prudence"). Each one ends neatly with a picture of a ballot featuring four political party leaders.

I have no problem with MPs sending out informational mailings nor even of some political party financing, but this is way over the top. Aside from the wastefulness, are Jaffer's and Anders's constituents not being ripped off where MP communications are concerned, as what would otherwise stand as information from their MP appears instead as crass political advertising in other provinces?

In the case of Jaffer, the only Alberta MP with a reasonable chance of being defeated in the next election (by the NDP's
Linda Duncan), he might be wise to keep his focus a little closer to home.

In the coming days, as we approach an election call, I'm fully expecting to see planes flying overhead and blanketing the earth with a payload of Tory ads all courtesy of some faraway MP.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Sad, sad news

Just Damn Stupid put it best in response to this week's terrible news.

My thoughts are with Donne's family and friends.

We'll miss you, Donne.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Long March, Manitoba edition?

After reading several posts (see
Mary Agnes Welch, PolicyFrog and Hacks and Wonks) lamenting the number of Manitoba athletes in Beijing (just two, compared to at least 11 for Saskatchewan), I decided to see if I could find comparable numbers for past Olympic Games.

The most recent games were the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy. I couldn't find a regional breakdown of all of the athletes, but looking at the medal count, I came up with:

4 medals awarded to Alberta athletes;
5 awarded to Manitoba athletes;
3 awarded to Ontario athletes;
3 awarded to Quebec athletes; and
9 awarded jointly to Canadian teams,
for a total of 24.

If we look at the regional composition of each team that received a medal, we find that the teams break out as follows: 1 team of predominantly Newfoundland and Labrador athletes, 1 largely Ontario, 1 Alberta, 2 Quebec, 1 Manitoba, 1 AB-BC tie, and 2 AB-SK tie. That gives us the following approximate medal count totals:

AB: 6.5
MB: 6
QC: 5
ON: 4
SK: 1
NL: 1
BC: 0.5

Total: 24

Based on medal count, it looks like it was Saskatchewan's turn to take the lumps last time, with a measly one medal (actually one bronze and one silver shared jointly with Alberta athletes) compared to Manitoba's six medals, including two gold, for the best per-capita take in the country. And athletes from BC, who'll host the Olympics in 2010, barely even registered on the map.

I'd like to chalk up the Summer Olympics-Winter Olympics difference to Manitoba having a comparative advantage in winter itself, but ... oh wait ... Saskatchewan also has an abundance of winter.

When looking at the above numbers, some might point out that the medal take by province is a whole different ball game (sorry) than the number of athletes participating in the games by province. That's absolutely true, but taking medals is what the Games are all about, n'est-ce pas?

No matter your opinion, I think taking numbers of athletes by province from one Olympic Games gives us far too small of a sample size to make conclusive statements about the health of sports in one province relative to another. However, if someone wants to pool the data from across, say, ten Olympic Games, maybe there'd be an interesting argument to make. Until then, I think it's safe to say that athletes -- no matter what part of the country they're in -- could use more funding and better facilities.

We may only have two this time around, but they'll compete like a thousand!

Photo: Bird's Nest, Beijing National Stadium